Top 10 Ways to Prevent Costly Claims at Restaurants and Bars

Our agency works with a large number of bars and restaurants in Wisconsin and, unfortunately, we see a fair number of claims from them each year. But many of these claims can be avoided by following some basic recommendations.

Every time we help a new client with their insurance we do a walk-through of their bar or restaurant to see if there are any exposures that may cause a possible claim. In addition, the insurance company will usually send a loss control representative who is professionally trained to help clients identify the biggest risks to their business so that they can be addressed.

Here are the top 10 items we see that, once corrected, can help avoid a major claim.

  1. Cracked Sidewalks

Slips, trips and falls are among the biggest liability issues for a business that has clients coming and going. This can be very expensive, as the average slip and fall claim approaches $50k.

  1. Slippery Floors

It’s common in restaurants and bars for liquids and grease to accumulate on floors. If those floors are not cleaned, or if the proper flooring isn’t installed, this can be a big hazard for employees.

  1. Outdated Fire Extinguishers

While most cities require extinguishers to be updated, this task can often slip through the cracks if you don’t have a company regularly servicing them. While an outdated extinguisher won’t cause a fire, it won’t work probably if a fire does occur.

  1. Open Flames Near Fryers

Too often we have seen a cooking setup in a kitchen that puts an open flame right next to a deep fryer with no divider in between. The solution to this might be to move the fryer far enough away from the open flame, but keep in mind you need to have everything covered by your extinguishing system. An easier solution may be to install a metal divider that’s high enough to protect the oil from the flame.

  1. Not Inspecting and Servicing Cooking Equipment

Every business owner gets busy, but making sure employees are inspecting and cleaning the cooking equipment is one of the most important things you can do in a restaurant to prevent fires caused by grease buildup.

  1. Dirty Filters

Speaking of cleaning, most restaurants have their employees clean the filters in the kitchen on a weekly basis. While it’s not a fun job, it is something that needs to be done — sometimes even more than weekly depending on the type of cooking being done. Grease buildup in filters can lead to massive fires.

  1. Dirty Fryers


While cleaning filters and cooking equipment may seem like a no-brainer, some restaurant proprietors forget to clean inside or under the fryer. If you use deep-fryers on a regular basis, extra care should be taken to clean them, as they are often a leading cause of fires.

  1. Untended Exterior Exhaust Systems

Out of sight usually means out of mind, and if that is the case for your exterior exhaust system you may want to talk to a service company about regular cleaning and maintenance. Have them look at the exterior exhaust system to  make sure it is free of grease buildup. This usually means accessing the roof, which is best left to professionals.  

  1. No Service Contract for Fire Suppression

This again is required by every municipality for any business with a cooking exposure. However, we often find that the suppression system contract has lapsed, and the cleaning/maintenance work has not been kept up. There are lots of ways to save money but skipping required inspections could lead to a fine or, worse yet, a major loss for your business.

  1. Improper Storage of Greasy Rags

This may seem a bit strange to many bar and restaurant owners but is in fact the most commonly recommended fix for all our restaurant and bar clients. Greasy rags that have been used to clean in the kitchen and are kept in a cloth sack or open container have a nasty habit of spontaneously combusting and causing major fires. The fix is to keep them in a metal can with a lid that closes tightly to keep oxygen out. Without oxygen, the rags can’t combust and might just save you from a major fire. If you still don’t believe this, do a quick Google search of “restaurant rags spontaneous combustion” and check out some of the results.

Thanks for taking the time to check out our blog. When you are ready to open your restaurant or bar, give us a call!